Red Betty Theatre presents “Blackberry”: an explosion of social issues and how they affect today’s IBPOC (Indigenous, Black and People Colour) youth. Written by Radha S. Menon and artfully directed by Alison Wong, this show is what you want to do this summer. You’ll thank yourself in the fall and beyond when you’ll find yourself still thinking about the ghosts that truly haunt this world.
Menon is a prolific playwright who’s made a large impact in the Hamilton Arts Community as both the City of Hamilton 2020 Arts Innovation Award winner and the 2016 Theatre Award winner. Her accolades are far reaching and it’s a real treat that she has created the opportunity to access this show by using the local Carter Park and by providing a sliding scale for ticket prices as well as a pay what you can night.
Director, Alison Wong takes the production to the next level by assembling a young, talented and passionate cast that light fire to the ideas. It’s not often that a show can be a vehicle for so many strong roles for young people. Jason Chung as Mo, Molly Mutch as Fiona, Rylan Bomberry as Yvonne, Paul Smith as Salim and Mike Jensen as the Policeman take this opportunity and create a striking ensemble. They shine both collectively and individually. Thanks to their talent, the audience finds it easy to be swept away in the murder mystery.
In another setting, you might feel like a fly on the wall. In Carter Park, however, you’re a fly on a leaf or maybe even on an actor. The park itself is like another character: the birds, the cars, the distant squeals of children. The scent of grass and the natural sundown all lull you into the secret world the characters share. The train passes by but the performers so engage that you don’t miss a word. You want to know their story. As the narratives unfolds, you become open to the deeper social concerns through your relationship with them.
It has the quality of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew or Famous Five by Enid Blyton but in the upside down world, because as IBPOC youth it’s not that easy to report a crime. They live in danger already. Inequality, racial profiling, Black Lives Matter, Defund the Police are all revealed in their summer oasis. It’s like Menon purposely turns the childhood genre on its ear to underlie the way in which colonialism literally robs them of their innocence.
So many thought provoking ideas are brought to the fore from the writing, performing and staging of this show you’ll need days to unpack it. For example, the Policeman, although only in one small scene remains a presence throughout the production: walking the parameter, watching from a bench or lurking in the bushes. By simply being a part of the environment he becomes a visual menace.
I literally can’t say enough about this production. It’s an experience. It’s accessible. It’s a work of art and It opens discussion and elevates the community. A little bird (yes one from the park) told me that as a labour of love for her cast, crew and audiences, the playwright cleans the park each day of the litter for the event. That’s dedication and it deserves reward.
Bring your blanket or lawn chair and watch the stars come out before the summer ends.
by Radha S. Menon
August 4-21, 2022 in Carter Park
32 Stinson St, Hamilton ON
Previews August 2-3 // 7:30 PM
Opening Night Thursday, August 4 // 7:30 PM
Tuesday-Saturday// 7:30 PM
Sliding Scale - $15.00 - $50.00
PAY WHAT YOU CAN (PWYC) available on all Tuesday Performances (cash only)